First-half tries not enough to save Pythons from another loss
Two tries inside the opening half hour of their home clash with Leeds Modernians weren't enough to prevent Harrogate Pythons from slipping to an eighth defeat in nine games.
Dan Bird’s out-of-form side headed into Saturday’s Yorkshire Three fixture desperate for a victory that would ease their fears of being sucked into a relegation battle.
And despite seizing a useful lead through touchdowns from Gareth Bass and Steve Smith, the men from Pennypot were eventually undone as their fellw strugglers fought back to win the day.
The game started at a fast pace with Sandy Dunlop making good ground from a Ross Fallenstein inside pass and Mods’ dangerous centre being stopped by a powerful tackle in midfield by Joe Bentham.
The Pythons’ scrum gained the ascendancy early on and from a well-controlled scrum drive, Fallenstein put Bass away to touch down out wide for 5-0 after six minutes.
Mods were then shunted off their first scrum ball, and Ivan Drane put a kick through which was touched down just in time by the visiting full-back.
With the returning Ben Kernoghan throwing well into the line out, and a steady supply of scrum ball, the hosts dominayed early on, only to be met by some strong defence from their opponents.
When a Leeds attack broke down, Bass returned the ball 50 meters before a Bentham kick led to an attacking scrum.
Mods were penalised and the Harrogate side went quickly with Bass stopped just short of the whitewash.
The move continued with Liam Monaghan halted on the line, but quick ball allowed Smith to crash over for the try and a 10-0 advantage in the 28th minute.
From the re-start, Ben Kernoghan trundled 50 meters up the blindside befre Bentham flicked the ball backwards over his head to put Bass away, but the referee ruled that the ball had gone forward and awarded Mods a scrum.
From the resulting set-piece, a visiting centre broke though and passed to his supporting winger who carried well but was eventually dragged down on the line.
Quickly-recycled ball then allowed the Leeds outfit to open their account for the day with a try to half the deficit at 10-5 on 36 minutes.
From the last play of the half, the Pythons elected to play from their 22 and following a drive by Ian Binns, were penalised for not releasing.
Mods successfully kicked the resulting penalty to make the half-time score 10-8.
The Pythons ramped up the pressure early in the second half with John Reah breaking through a gap and offloading to Dunlop, but the recycled ball was eventually knocked on by Liam Kernoghan.
Tempers then flared when a Mods player stamped on Drane, but the referee decided to award just penalty and no card.
Another Bentham break led to panic in the Mods defence but they eventually managed to escape after halting strong carries from Dunlop and Matt Leach.
With Harrogate pressing strongly, Fallenstein dropped a pass and despite the knock-on was cynically taken out buy a Mods player.
Again the referee only awarded the penalty, despite Fallenstein having to leave the field through injury, but the three pints were booted over by skipper Max Sharp for 13-8 on the hour-mark.
The Pythons then broke out of defence and Bass followed up his own kick and crunched his opposite number with a fine tackle, resulting in the Leeds man also having to leave the field.
Another powerful burst by Leach saw scrum half Andy Mackay carry 20 meters only to be stopped a metre short of the line.
Mods cleared their lines and following penalty for a late tackle by a home player, they kicked to the corner.
From the resulting line-out, Leeds moved the ball wide to score a good try, which was converted from near the touchline, sneaking ahead for the first time at 15-13 with just four minutes remaining.
With time running out, the Pythons threw everything at their visitors and were making good ground when the referee stopped them in their tracks after spotting a forward pass.
Mods were penalised on the 10 metre line and Sharp had the chance to win the game with a shot at the posts, but his attempt fell short and the away side hung on for victory.
The result sees the Leeds outfit leapfrog Harrogate in the league standings, with the Pythons dropping one place to 11th and now hovering just above the bottom three.